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Russia Tows Black Sea Flagship Back to Port As Ukraine Claims Missile Attack




Russia says it will tow the flagship of its Black Sea fleet back to port after extinguishing a fire on board – which Ukraine claims to have ignited with anti-ship missiles.

Moscow’s defence ministry said the Moskva missile cruiser was still afloat and its main weaponry had not been damaged.

Ukrainian officials, however, said the vessel had sunk, describing it as a “resounding slap in the face” for Moscow.

Neither side’s claims have been independently verified.

The Moskva’s crew was evacuated on to other ships in the area, Russia’s defence ministry said, admitting earlier that it was badly damaged.

“As a result of a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser, ammunition detonated,” it said in comments reported by the Tass news agency.

The cause of the fire is being investigated, the ministry added.

It said later: “The source of the blaze on the Moskva has been contained. The explosions of ammunition have stopped.”

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The Moskva in Sevastopol, Crimea, on 7 April. Pic: Maxar Technologies via AP

A ‘symbolic’ event on ‘both sides’

Air Marshall Phil Osborn, former chief of UK defence intelligence, said the Ukrainian version of events – that the fire was caused by a missile strike – was “more likely” to be correct.

The development is “quite symbolic on both sides”, he told Sky News, adding that the Moskva is “quite a significant vessel as far as Russia is concerned”.

Presuming the cruiser was indeed hit by a Ukrainian missile, the impact is “less the loss of the ship and more a demonstration of Ukrainian capability”, Air Marshall Osborn added.

The Moskva, which dates from the Soviet era, was commissioned 40 years ago but has since been refitted, Mr Osborn said.

A missile strike could cause the Russians to “stand off a bit”, he commented, which may have “real implications for any potential assault on Odesa”.

‘She is on fire’

Two Ukrainian sources told Sky News the 12,500-tonne ship had been hit by anti-ship missiles launched by the Ukrainian military.

“She is on fire,” one of the sources said. “The level of damage is being clarified… She is about 25 nautical miles from Snake Island.”

Two Neptune missiles were used, Ukrainian media reported.

Again, those claims have not been independently verified.

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Maksim Marchenko, the governor of Odesa, said on Telegram: “It has been confirmed that the missile cruiser Moskva today went exactly where it was sent by our border guards on Snake Island!

“Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship.

“Glory to Ukraine!”

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His comments about Snake Island refer to an incident earlier in the war – the day after Russia’s invasion began – when the Moskva was one of two Russian ships approaching the patch of land in the Black Sea.

The Russians ordered 13 Ukrainian soldiers defending the island to surrender but the Ukrainians responded over radio, telling the Moskva and its crew to “go f*** yourself”.

At first it was thought the Ukrainian soldiers had been killed but the country’s navy later said they had been captured alive by Russia.

Other key developments:

o Russia threatens nuclear escalation if Sweden and Finland join NATO
o US announces $800m in military support for Ukraine
o US officials consider sending Secretary of State Antony Blinken or Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to Kyiv
o The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia visit Ukraine to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

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Mariupol on the brink of capture

Ukraine has warned that Russia is boosting its efforts in the south and east as it edges closer to taking control of Mariupol.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that 1,026 soldiers from Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, including 162 officers, had surrendered in the southern city and that the port had come under Russian control.

Ukrainian soldiers trying to defend the strategically-important city have been fighting for weeks while running out of food, water, and ammunition.

Ukraine’s general staff confirmed Russian forces were attacking the port area but said there was no information about a surrender.

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll




The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.


There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons




The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.


Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed




A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.


All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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